“As a comedian, you have to start the show strong and you have to end the show strong; those are the two key elements,” legendary stand-up Mitch Hedberg once quipped. “You can’t be like pancakes: all exciting at first, but then by the end, you’re fuckin’ sick of ’em.”
The Kliff Kingsbury Cardinals have been a lot like pancakes in each of the past two seasons.
I’m guessing pancakes were not what GM Steve Keim had in mind when he hit the reset button on the team heading into 2019, hiring a young, forward-thinking coach in Kingsbury before using the top pick in the draft to select an electrifying, Heisman Trophy–winning quarterback in Kyler Murray. Keim undoubtedly had the vision that his scintillating new duo would jump-start the team’s listless offense and put Arizona back on the map. And it worked! … Kinda. Kingsbury and Murray did manage to right the offensive ship, but those improvements weren’t enough: Arizona closed out the 2019 season by losing seven of its final nine games, finishing in last place in the NFC West with a 5-10-1 record.The team followed a similar trajectory in 2020. Arizona got off to another hot start, soaring to a 6-3 record thanks to Murray’s dynamic skill set and his upgraded offensive core (which included newcomer DeAndre Hopkins, whose jump-ball prowess produced the Hail Murray win over the Bills). But a shoulder injury for Murray and some suspect play-calling and scheming from Kingsbury acted as a bucket of cold water, and the Cardinals once again fizzled to finish the season. They lost five of their final seven games to finish 8-8 and third in the division.
Now, there have certainly been moments over the past two seasons when Arizona has felt like an ascending franchise with its superstar quarterback and wunderkind play-caller. But mostly, the team’s struggles and late-season stumbles have overshadowed those positives and now leave the Kingsbury-Murray duo at a crossroads heading into 2021. Is it wheels-up time for Murray in the Kingsbury Air Raid, or will this offense once again struggle to get off the ground?